Reaper's Fire

Page 22

I couldn’t decide if there was something fishy about the whole thing or if he was just stalling.

“Well, you’ll need a whole new roof in the next few years, there’s no help for that,” Cooper said, holding out a notebook covered in diagrams and cramped writing, all of which meant nothing to me. “But I can do some basic repairs that should hold for another winter or two. I have the time and I know how to do it, but it’s still going to cost. I’ve run some numbers, and I think we’re looking at close to five grand for materials and equipment rental.”

I met his gaze, swallowing. It was a lot of money, but we had it in the rental account. Good thing I’d filled that last empty unit, though, because we were barely cash-flowing as it was. I looked back up to find him studying me, our faces so close that I could feel the heat of his breath.

“I can swing that much,” I said quietly. “How long do you think it’ll take?”

He tilted his head, and I realized he was watching my lips. It felt like there wasn’t quite enough air around us. Everything was hot, and I couldn’t decide if it was the heat of his body or mine making me so uncomfortable. Licking my lips, I leaned toward him unconsciously.

Cooper swallowed.

“I think about three or four weeks, depending on what else comes up. If you want, I’ll start work this weekend.”

“Don’t you have plans?” I asked, my voice a whisper. He shook his head slowly.

“Nothing,” he said, his voice rough. He swallowed and I saw his eyes drift down toward my chest. I’d dressed for the heat in a light tank, the same one I usually wore to bed. It had a little shelf bra built in but it definitely hadn’t been designed for maximum coverage. Normally I wouldn’t even wear it outside the house. It’d only been the porch, though, and darkness was already falling.

Now my nipples poked through and his breath caught.



I laughed nervously, then raised my arms, crossing them over my chest. He shook his head, as if trying to wake up.

“I’ll charge the materials to your account at the hardware store, if that’s all right.”

“Of course.”

“Tinker, right now things are complicated. Talia—”

Flushing, I pulled away from him, because I didn’t need to hear the speech. I’d been repeating it in my head ever since I’d learned they were dating.

“No worries,” I said, standing up abruptly. “I need to get inside, check on Dad. Keep me posted on the roof and all that.”

Then I scuttled inside the house like a big, fat coward, because the last person on earth I wanted to talk about was stupid Talia.

As for Cooper, I don’t know what he did.

Probably went off to boink his girlfriend because she was so much better than me.

Stupid jerkwad.






Cooper spent the weekend working on the roof.

Without a shirt.

By Sunday afternoon I’d decided this constituted cruel and unusual punishment, but that didn’t stop me from hanging out in the yard and watering the flower baskets so I could watch him. It’d been a real challenge keeping them alive this year—we’d had the driest summer in memory, with more wildfires sparking in the national forests every day. Fortunately, none of them had come close to human habitation. Yet.

I was almost finished when Cooper climbed down off the roof, put away his tools, and disappeared inside, presumably to shower off the sweat. (Just the thought weakened my knees.) It was a good thing, too. Watching him was very nice, but it probably wasn’t particularly healthy, and I definitely didn’t want to talk to him any more than I had to. Not when every conversation ended with me tied up in knots from sexual tension while he moseyed off to his girlfriend.

By the time he came back out, I’d settled onto the porch with the glass of wine I traditionally awarded myself every Sunday afternoon, determined not to notice if he happened to reappear. Then he was in front of me and I forgot all about my vow not to notice, because seriously . . . his hair was all wet and hanging around his face as he walked up the porch steps. Yum.

“Hey,” he said. “How’s it going?”

“Fine,” I replied, smiling without quite meeting his gaze—this was part of my new plan for dealing with Cooper whenever he got too close. If I looked at his eyes, I might fall right into them and say something stupid, but if I focused on his shoulder I could pretend I was talking to Brandon. This worked, because talking to Brandon was the least sexy activity on earth (outside of actually having sex with Brandon, of course).

“Did I do something to piss you off?” he asked bluntly. “Because I thought we were friendly, but all weekend you’ve been disappearing every time I try to talk to you.”

I had, actually, although I hadn’t realized I’d been doing it so obviously. (Creeping around and watching someone without talking to them is more complicated than it looks, especially in a town as small as this one.)

“No,” I said, startled into meeting his eyes. Ah crap. They were deep and brown and so rich they could’ve been made of chocolate. Danger! “Of course not. I really appreciate all the work you’ve been doing around here.”

“Well, I appreciate the job, not to mention the hospitality,” he said, offering a sexy smile. It transformed his face, and my womb quivered. Yeah, you read that right. My womb fucking quivered, because there’s really no other way to describe what this man did to me. This man who had a girlfriend, a girlfriend I knew all about because his bedroom wall and my bedroom wall were right next to each other. Sometimes his bed thumped against it while they had crazy monkey sex.

“I’m glad you’re enjoying your new place,” I managed to say.

“I am,” he replied. “Although I feel kind of sheepish, since you fixed me dinner and I never paid you back. Too bad I can’t cook for shit, but I’m picking up some Chinese tonight instead. Wanna share it with me? You can even bring your dad if you want.”

OMG he likes us! my quivering loins shrieked, making an end run around my common sense. Say yes. Yes!

“Sure,” I said quickly. Probably too quickly. “But my dad’s in bed. He wasn’t feeling good. I think it’s just a cold, but he gets tired easily these days.”

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